Arnold Kling  

Lyrics Without Music

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Craig Wieland sent me a copy of Pointed Poems, a book of conservative poetry that he has composed. Since this is a unique book, it is difficult to know what standards to use to evaluate it. I am inclined to think of it as a collection of song lyrics, and thus to compare it with Woody Guthrie's oevre.

The rhythm in the poems tends to be too uneven to be set to music. Also, the ideas are more complex than what a typical folk song tries to convey. But, as with Woody Guthrie, you have to be impressed with Wieland's passion and creativity.

Woody Guthrie's lyrics are appealing because he is a spokesman for the downtrodden. Probably my favorite of his songs is Deportee, which expresses sympathy for illegal immigrants, a sentiment shared by many of us on the libertarian side.

These days, I do not think anyone genuinely speaks for the downtrodden. Instead, we have pretenders. The right pretends to be oppressed, and the left pretends to be black.

What I would like to see is a book of "songs to sing to your teacher." It would be a set of songs that mock the political viewpoint taught in public schools. Craig Wieland has not quite written the lyrics for those songs. But I think he could.


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COMMENTS (12 to date)
sourcreamus writes:

I love "Deportee", especially the PP&M version, but the lyrics make no sense. A planeload of migrant workers crashes and the song is a lament that the radio announcer did not take the time to read each individual's name out during the news. The migrants probably had pretty hard lives and the issue of a radio announcer not announcing their names after they died would seem pretty far down the list of the hardships they had to endure.

anonymous writes:

As I recall the lyrics, the radio announcer said that the workers were "just" deportees.

ThomasL writes:

The most Woody Guthrie like singer I can think of in the present day and age is Bill Mallonee.

He is the best songwriter I've ever heard, and has a similar sympathy.

Strangely enough, according to Wikipedia he knew Guthrie when he was a kid. Not sure if that influenced his writing or not.

Archive.org has some nice free recordings, eg http://www.archive.org/details/bmallonee2007-09-27..flac16

Listen just to 'Resplendent' from that concert for a very Guthrie-esque vibe.

Troy Camplin writes:

Tragic Hope

Does lack of destiny kill tragedy?
The Age of Great Napoleon brought forth
No tragedies. And Stalin's Russia, too,
Produced no Aeschylus of their far north.

But they believed in Destiny! They ruled
Two countries who believed in Destiny.
Instead of Shakespeare, all we saw was death --
Blood flowed with every promise we'd be free.

Perhaps it isn't destiny, but hope --
No Golden Age behind us, future bright
Instead -- the promise of emergence with
The dangers still in sight -- but we will fight.

This is the promise and the threat of hubris --
The tragic hero must be born in hope --
And he must struggle to break free and stretch
Us to new worlds while tethered to a rope.

This isn't Destiny. This isn't death
That just destroys, inhuman, in its good
Intentions. No. It's growing tall so lightning
Rounds off our top -- a massive, tall redwood.

I pray then that we're ripe for tragic art,
That we are pregnant now with future, not
A Destiny that destroys man and cuts
Him off from his humanity, to rot.

Troy Camplin writes:

Two Scotsmen and a saint provide the light
And tension needed for the growth of man --
Behold their paradoxical delight,
The source of growth from when it all began.

Troy Camplin writes:

The island nation lights the lamp of liberty
As it goes out in the devalued, dying west
As they embrace lies' leaders and frivolity,
The promise they can all suck from the common breast.

Troy Camplin writes:

The fiat virus grows relentlessly
To sicken, poison almost all the herd
Until the herd itself is blamed -- the three
Shall kill the herd, supporting the absurd.

Troy Camplin writes:

On Leadership

I cannot write about our Caesar –
Napoleon, we’ve never had –
We’ve lacked a Hitler, Stalin, Castro,
And such a loss makes many sad.
Democracy can never give us
Great leaders such as these, and so
We fight to tear it down, implode it –
No leaders rise, so it must go.
The awful people we’ve elected
Won’t be as bad, so we feel spurned –
Instead, our leaders rot so slowly,
And from the swamp, the swamp’s returned.
Our greatest heroes? Just pathetic –
Jack Kennedy could never be
An Alexander or Augustus –
That’s why we’re still just barely free.
And that is why each poet, artist
Loves dictators and praises them –
A poem praising complex systems? –
Too many facets in that gem.
Each poet wants to be Propertius
And praising Caesar endlessly –
Pathetic politicians are not
Worth lines of valiant poetry.
But what the poets lost, the people
Have gained, so keep great men at bay,
For order made by law brings freedom,
Makes possible the dawn of day.

Troy Camplin writes:

On the Wealthy

We learned to hate the wealthy when
The wealthy were all thieves
And rulers with the strength to take
Whatever they should please.

The wealthy, when they gained their wealth
From voluntary trade,
Were thought to get their wealth the way
The ruler thieves were paid.

So then we turn back to the thieves
WHo promise that they'll take
THe wealth from those who earned that wealth
Then lie: "It's for your sake."

We've come to trust the ones who made
Us never trust the rich
And, rather than take a hand up,
Lie beaten in a ditch.

Exchange is new and power's old
So it feels natural --
But if we keep believing that,
We'll live still in the Fall.

Troy Camplin writes:

Autumn

When freedom is lost in the land of the free
Where will we all go who still wish to be free?
This was the last stop for the ships of the free
Who do not believe that their lunch should be free.

[Poem elided. The remainder of this poem may be found at Interdisciplinary World.--Econlib Ed.]

Troy Camplin writes:

Blaze

How can we know we need a guide
When we do not know we are even lost?

[Poem elided. The remainder of this poem may be found at Interdisciplinary World.--Econlib Ed.]

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